Bombs Away? A Reagan-Trump Comparison

President Trump has stirred the criticism pot with his military actions: striking an air base in Syria and using the largest bomb in the US arsenal to destroy terrorists’ caves in Afghanistan. It has led some to question exactly what authority a president has to use the military without first consulting Congress.

That’s an important question because the Constitution gives Congress the authority to declare war, not any president unilaterally. Of course, Congress hasn’t passed an actual war declaration since WWII. All of our actions militarily since then have either been in conjunction with the UN (Korea, Persian Gulf War) or with tacit approval of Congress to defend American lives (Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq). The latter were with congressional resolutions that fall short of true declarations.

Yet are there times when a president cannot wait for Congress to debate a matter because surprise is essential? Can the use of the military for one specific action be taken by presidential authority without a full declaration of war?

Let’s look at the Reagan years for a couple of examples.

In 1983, a militant pro-Castro faction overthrew the government of Maurice Bishop, a moderate Marxist, on the island of Grenada. Reagan immediately understood the implications of the coup: if the new government survived, a third Cuba (Marxist Nicaragua was viewed as the second Cuba in Reagan’s mind) would have come into existence during his watch. Grenada would become another Soviet client-state in the Western hemisphere.

The new Grenadian administration brought in 600 Cubans to construct an airstrip that could accommodate large military planes. This worried not only the US but other island-nations in the region. Prime Minister Eugenia Charles of Dominica came to the White House to share her concerns with Reagan and ask for help.

Another factor Reagan had to take under consideration was several hundred Americans who were attending a medical school on the island. He wanted to ensure their safety, but knew that if word got out that action was being contemplated, those Americans could easily become hostages. The threat of another Iranian-type hostage situation loomed.

So, for national security reasons and fear for the safety of American lives, Reagan chose to act swiftly and as quietly as possible. He did bring in congressional leadership, both Republican and Democrat, before taking action, informing them of the situation. He got the go-ahead from them to proceed.

On October 25, Reagan sent 10,000 U.S. marines and army airborne troops to invade the island. All resistance was eliminated after three days of fighting. At first, some members of Congress were outraged, but public support for the invasion soared as TV coverage featured interviews with the grateful American students.

Then there was Libya in 1986.

This radical Islamic state ruled by strongman Muammar Qaddafi had used its oil revenues to bankroll terrorists in Europe and the Middle East. On April 15, 1986, having concluded that Libya had supported and financed the bombing of a nightclub in Berlin frequented by American military personnel, Reagan ordered the bombing of five targets in Libya, including the presidential palace.

Reagan wanted to send a message to Qaddafi that he needed to back off his financial support for terrorism, and that he should think twice before aiding and abetting attacks that might kill and injure US soldiers.

Again, Reagan felt that giving advance warning for this punitive action would allow Libya to prepare for it and minimize the damage. He had already publicly proclaimed the US perspective on Libya and other nations directly involved with terrorism when he said in a speech that Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Libya were “outlaw states run by the strangest collection of misfits, loony-tunes and squalid criminals since the advent of the Third Reich.” Of Qaddafi, he said, “He’s not only a barbarian, he’s flaky.”

In both of these instances, Reagan took into consideration national security and saving the lives of American citizens. Both actions were short-term, not full-fledged wars, and required secrecy for their success.

Trump’s decisions have to be evaluated in that same light. I have no problem with the Afghanistan bombing, as it is part of an ongoing effort to eliminate terrorism aimed at America. It would be nice, though, for Congress to go the whole way for a declaration of war and make it more constitutional. Yet I realize that it is difficult in this situation because terrorism is not confined to one nation; it is a continuing problem that pops up everywhere.

As for Syria, I have mixed feelings. Trump apparently decided to go ahead with that bombing because of the use of chemical weapons on Syrian citizens. He saw pictures of the results and was horrified. Who wouldn’t be?

But was there a direct danger to American citizens over Syria’s use of chemical weapons? Was our national security threatened by this terrible action? We are a compassionate people who want to stop atrocities, but can we do that everywhere in the world? Aren’t atrocities occurring in many nations? Where do we strike and where do we not?

Decisions need to be made on the basis of national security and saving American lives first and foremost. Other reasons may enter in as well, but there needs to be a compelling need to act; we can’t merely make emotional decisions.

My concern is that Trump often makes decisions based on emotion. He has little understanding of constitutional authority and limitations; neither does he care to learn.

While I can inwardly cheer that the bombing in Syria sends a message, I can wonder about the wisdom of that decision and whether it really accomplished its purposes.

My concerns about how Trump makes decisions and whether he has any bedrock principles have never gone away. I’m also concerned that too many Americans don’t care about those principles. Yet without a proper understanding of the rule of law, we are in trouble.

Dangers of Misguided Compassion

I’m concerned that many of my fellow Christian believers are falling for a lie—the lie that if the US doesn’t take in thousands upon thousands of Syrian refugees that we are a hard-hearted, unchristian people. Accusations against those who want to be cautious about the refugee crisis come from the very top:

You're Racist

First, let’s drop the racist angle; it’s getting pretty old and stale. Then there’s the accusation that those who are opposed to unlimited immigration from Syria are religious bigots who hate Muslims. Again, that’s too stereotyped.

Do I hate Muslims? Absolutely not. I believe they are misguided and have pledged allegiance to a false god, but I would hope that every Christian would want to help them see the truth of the Gospel that can set them free from the chains that bind them.

Yet there is, within Islam itself, a worldview that is basically inconsistent with the American constitutional system of government. Muslims who are not Muslim in name only, and who seek to establish a culture grounded in Islam—not allowing for any dissent—are bent on destroying the edifice of the American Republic.

Of course, we have others who are doing the same from a completely secular viewpoint, but why invite more problems?

It is not hard-hearted to take seriously the responsibility to protect and defend the citizens of one’s country. From a Biblical perspective, that is the primary reason for a government to exist. Too many Christians don’t grasp the essentials of how government is to be carried out in a Biblical manner.

Instead, we often allow our emotions to overrule Biblical principles. True compassion will differentiate between those who deserve help and those who do not. True compassion will make judgments on who is a real refugee who should be granted asylum and who is not.

Christians who are suffering persecution in the Middle East should be first on the list for refugee status because the goal of radical Islam is to kill them all. President Obama, though, calls that an unfair religious test. No, it is facing reality.

All who are fleeing Syria should be thoroughly vetted if they come here at all because it is obvious that the jihadists will use this flood of refugees to insert themselves into our country. It doesn’t take a PhD to realize that.

Good SamaritanThe example of the Good Samaritan is being used to try to shame those of us who want a proper vetting. That is a misplaced analogy. The context is different. In the parable, there is no overarching story about a bloodthirsty, fanatical group devoted to world domination. It’s simply the story of one man in great need who received aid from the most unlikely source.

The true Syrian refugees do deserve compassion and aid. Yet is the best solution an open-borders policy? Why not instead an international approach where they are provided a “safe space” (to use a term floating around so carelessly nowadays) in a culture where they fit in better? Why not apply pressure to Saudi Arabia and other Muslim nations to take in their own? Why flood America with the teeming masses who might hide those who wish to destroy us?

Proper Christian compassion does reach out and offer help. We must be wise, though, in how that help is extended. Bring the persecuted Christians into America and find another way to take care of others who deserve our compassion because we just don’t have the means to do a proper vetting, despite what the government tells us.

Misguided compassion could be the death of us all.

The Rush to Self-Deception

Paris AttacksEveryone who has a blog is probably commenting today on the Paris attacks of last Friday. Although I haven’t superimposed the French flag on my Facebook image (I’m not one for fads of that kind), that doesn’t mean I’m not deeply disturbed over what has occurred. This was another prime example of Islamic terrorism, even if our president stubbornly continues to avoid using that terminology.

Paris Attacks MapThe attacks in Paris took place at a number of locations at approximately the same time. They were well orchestrated. ISIS has claimed credit for them. At least one of the attackers was part of the Syrian refugee flood, a tide of humanity that ISIS takes advantage of by inserting its adherents, knowing that they will not be vetted properly before infiltrating the welcoming nation’s population.

This is nothing new, of course. Western nations have been the greatest abettors of their own destruction. We are so afraid of appearing insensitive, racist, or intolerant, that we opt for allowing avowed enemies into our midst.

I’m reminded of Mark Steyn’s comments in his book America Alone:

America AloneAfter September 11, the first reaction of just about every prominent Western leader was to visit a mosque: President Bush did, so did the Prince of Wales, the prime minister of the United Kingdom, the prime minister of Canada and many more. And, when the get-me-to-the-mosque-on-time fever died away, you couldn’t help feeling that this would strike almost any previous society as, well, bizarre.

Pearl Harbor’s been attacked? Quick, order some sushi and get me into a matinee of Madam Butterfly! Seeking to reassure the co-religionists of those who attack you that you do not regard them all as the enemy is a worthy aim but a curious first priority. And, given that more than a few of the imams in those mosque photo-ops turned out to be at best equivocal on the matter of Islamic terrorism and at worst somewhat enthusiastic supporters of it, it involved way too much self-deception on our part.

That self-deception seems to exist more at the top levels of our government than among our citizens in general. Polls show that most Americans expect Paris-type attacks to be coming soon to a city near us. A government’s first task is to protect its own citizens; are we sure our current government really believes in that?

For Christians, there is kind of a divided mind on these matters at times. We want to help genuine refugees, particularly since we know that some of them are Christian brothers and sisters trying to escape persecution and annihilation. We don’t want them sent back into that maelstrom.

Yet we can help those refugees through some very effective ministries, and we should do so, even as my church is doing now. But that doesn’t mean we ignore the very real threat that this refugee explosion contains. It’s not Christian to blindly accept everyone, thereby endangering our fellow countrymen.

This unfolding tragedy has no easy answers, but governmentally, it could at least start with an acknowledgement of the real problem. With our present government, that will not happen.

The Obligatory Obama Update

I so much prefer using this blog to showcase positive things, highlighting people like C. S. Lewis, Whittaker Chambers, and Ronald Reagan. But I feel I must continue to offer commentary on contemporary developments, both cultural and political.

I’m going to use the blog today to do a little catch-up. Lest we forget, we still have someone residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. doing his best to transform the country. I’ve avoided making him the focus of this blog for a while, but now it’s time to provide an overview of how his national transformation is working.

I’ll let political cartoons do most of my talking.

On the Obamacare front (yes, mainstream media, it’s still a relevant issue), more bad news for the occupant of the White House. State co-ops are folding because they are going broke, premiums are rising significantly (which anyone with any knowledge of economics predicted), and all those wonderful promises of state-controlled healthcare for everyone are wilting.

Co-Ops

Coverage

Tweaks

Then there’s Obama’s about-face on putting “boots on the ground” in the Middle East, specifically Syria. Now, I’m not an advocate of sending massive numbers of US troops into that quagmire, but if you’re going to do it at all, shouldn’t you send more than fifty Special Ops soldiers? Fifty? Yes, you heard correctly. Does anyone really believe that’s going to turn the tide there? And just what tide are we trying to turn anyway? Supporting the so-called “moderates” against ISIS sounds good, but how many of those moderates are there, and can they really be trusted?

One is tempted to view this action as just for show—no substance at all.

Limited Action

Flip-Flops

Squiggle

Then there’s his executive action to release a large number of drug offenders from prison. Now, I certainly can agree that some of them may have received sentences that didn’t comport with the offense, yet there’s significant testimony that many of those being released were not simply casual users but dealers. And now they are to be sent out into the general population again.

My cynical side will show here: how many of those released prisoners will now be allowed to vote in the next presidential election? Do you think they will vote for Republicans? Right.

Employers are also not supposed to be able to investigate the criminal past of applicants as readily as before. Well, that definitely helps one person in particular:

Criminal History

You are now updated. I’ve done my duty. Tomorrow, back to C. S. Lewis.

Russia & the Decline of American Influence

Syria? Who cares about Syria? Iraq? Old story. Never should have gone there in the first place. Leave it alone. Let everyone in that whole region just fight it out amongst themselves since there’s no one to support anyway.

That last paragraph summarizes what a lot of people think. That’s pretty much what Donald Trump said as well. Some of the sentiment I can understand. Trying to build nations is a complicated mess when there is no practice of self-government and when there is no Biblical basis for governing.

So, yes, I understand how some people feel.

But that doesn’t erase the threat emanating from radical Islam in the region, a threat that won’t be contained there but will show up more consistently within our borders, especially if we cut and run.

Unfortunately, cutting and running seems to be the Obama administration’s policy—to the point that we have now allowed Russia to take the lead, particularly in Syria.

ISIS Strategy

Vladimir Putin’s bold move into leadership in that civil war came directly after meeting with Obama. Apparently, there was no warning he was going to intervene; he simply did so and informed us afterward. Most insulting was the directive that American planes should keep out of the way. Of course, those planes weren’t doing much anyway, given the strategy (?) for victory (?) Obama has put into operation, but the demand itself shows that Russia is now in the driver’s seat and America is an afterthought.

No matter what you think of American involvement in the region, the insertion of Russian authority should be a warning about the loss of influence America now has in the situation. Why, it’s as if no one really believes Obama’s warnings. I wonder why that might be?

Red Line

Ah, yes, that infamous “red line” he supposedly drew in the Syrian sands, which he then conveniently forgot about when Assad crossed it and used chemical weapons anyway. The term has now taken on a whole new meaning:

Russian Landing Strip

Perhaps you recall a comment Obama made during his first term when he thought his microphone was off while speaking with a Russian leader—you know, the comment that if he were to win a second term, he could then be more “flexible” in his foreign policy. Well, that certainly has come to fruition:

More Flexible

Obama’s leadership has become little more than a joke around the world, particularly with nations we should be the most concerned about:

Love That One

America doesn’t always have to put boots on the ground and be the world’s policeman, but we ought to be a major player in dealing with global problems that will come home to roost. Under our current leadership, the United States has become pretty much a laughingstock.

And you wonder why so many of us look longingly back to the days of a real president, one who was able to exert American influence without major loss of life and while overseeing a robust economy? Yes, I’m talking about Ronald Reagan.

There is no Reagan on the horizon, but we can definitely do better than the leadership we’re stuck with now.

We can blame Obama, but who put him in the position he now occupies? It’s never been more true that a nation’s leaders are the reflection of the nation’s people—and that’s a sad development. It says something about Americans in general that should shake us to the core.

The Obama Zone

Yesterday, ISIS captured more than 100 Christians in Syria. If they are treated as other captives, the women and young girls will be raped and brutalized, then executed. The men may be burned alive or crucified. Hatred drives these Islamists, and nothing will appease them. This is no different in spirit than the Nazis. Both movements were and are fueled by Hell.

Yet what do we hear from the administration about this latest report of Christians being massacred? Not a word yet. You see, we wouldn’t want to “inflame” the captors. It might lead them to continue their rampage of terror. At least, that’s the message Obama’s spokespersons are disseminating.

Our president, meanwhile, shows no signs of changing his mind about the foolish comments he made at the Prayer Breakfast:

Not Be Named

This past week, we did get a warning about a possible terrorist attack on the Mall of America in Minneapolis. Was it genuine, or just a ploy to force Republicans in the Senate to drop their opposition to Obama’s unconstitutional executive amnesty? I don’t know for sure, but I do know that malls like that would make perfect “soft” targets for the terrorists.

Did you see the sign at the Mall of America, boasting that it was a gun-free zone? Well, that’s great. Now we don’t have to worry about terrorists taking guns in there. After all, it’s against the law, right? And they are so law-abiding. The absolute foolishness of our politically correct contingent is neverending.

Malls

May I take one more opportunity to make fun of the “jobs for jihadists” theme?

Drive-Through Lanes

As a nation, we have entered the “Obama Zone,” where everything we’ve ever believed is now turned upside down.

Obamaland

And here’s another thing that is now reversed:

Dissent

A poignant Scripture from the book of Isaiah is one I’ve used many times to decry what we see happening in our country. I’m going to use it again today simply because it so accurately describes what we are experiencing:

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight!

Thoughts on the Syrian Bombing

Just a few thoughts today, now that we’ve begun bombing ISIS targets in Syria.

ISIS Control Map

First, good, in the generic sense. It’s well past time to act. We should have undercut this terrorist organization a long time ago instead of allowing it to grow and fester.

Second, I’m glad to see that some Arab nations are helping. The extent of that help is still unclear to me, yet, if for no other reason than self-interest and survival, they need to be on board.

Third, since I have no confidence in President Obama’s willingness or inclination to see this through to the end, we must pray that the goal is accomplished despite him. He will have the tendency to say something is completed when it is not. Then the problem will arise anew.

Fourth, even if successful, this does not bring the terror threat to any kind of a halt. It has many heads and tentacles. Truly, we must stay vigilant, and there’s no commitment to that vigilance in our government at the present time.

Fifth, let’s be real about why Obama decided to go ahead at this time. This action allows him to appear strong against terrorism. He hopes that will change the trend in the upcoming elections, as Democrats now may look more attuned to the nation’s security. Don’t be fooled; this is probably a political move as much as it is a strategic one for national security reasons.

Sixth, unfortunately, what he has done is unconstitutional. He has no authority from Congress to do this. Under the Constitution, he needed to get congressional approval for any long-term military action, and be assured, this will be long-term. The resolutions following 9/11 apply to Al Qaeda only, not to ISIS. He could have received that approval last week while Congress was in session. He deliberately waited until Congress adjourned so he could act unilaterally. This is simply another in a long string of decisions made by bogus executive authority.

So, in conclusion, while I sincerely hope this leads to the destruction of ISIS, I am forced to say that I have grave doubts that it will do so, despite the hoopla surrounding the startup of the bombing campaign. Bombing alone won’t accomplish the overall goal. Further, the president has acted unconstitutionally and primarily for political reasons. We need to keep all these factors in mind as we go forward, and as we think about the momentous decisions to come in November.